Mandy Marquardt: Redefining Diabetes Through Racing

Mandy Marquardt is a Track Cyclist for the USA Cycling National Team and Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team. Their mission is to inspire, educate and empower everyone affected by diabetes. Mandy has been part of the team since 2010 and believes what the team does really makes a difference to the people in our community – racing and inspiring everyone around the world affected by diabetes is something that brings her great joy.

Thank you so much Mandy for taking the time to answer our questions! We know you are an inspiration to many and would love to share your story!

At what age were you diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 16 while racing and living in Mannheim, Germany with my father.

What were your symptoms?

I surprisingly didn’t have any symptoms that I was aware of and the diagnosis was a shock. There were signs now that I look back at what I thought were some odd incidents. For example, I would take forever to warm up and felt this overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and tiredness frequently. I thought it could have been from the stress of school and training hard.

Along with my type 1 diagnosis, I shortly after found out I have hypothyroidism too, so having that all discovered and learning to get it under control was such a good feeling.

Being diagnosed as a child is hard, how did you handle your diagnosis? Were you quiet about it or were you vocal and welcomed the opportunity to educate?

When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t know anyone else living with type 1 diabetes. While hospitalized for two weeks, a doctor told me I would never be able to compete at a high level again in the sport of cycling. I was heartbroken, but my parents were my biggest supporters, and helped me get back on the bike. I always knew it was my happy place. I started riding again, and just training for fun and told myself, we’ll see what happens.

Joining Team Novo Nordisk in 2010, racing amongst other athletes with type 1 diabetes and learning how to talk about my diagnosis gave me hope.

At what point in your life did you get active with fitness and more specifically, cycling?

I was born in Mannheim, Germany and moved to South Florida at the age of 6. My parents got me involved with the local swim team and I started playing tennis. I picked up running and was interested in competing in triathlons. In 2002 at the age of 10, my dad came across The Brian Piccolo Velodrome, which was a short drive from our home and was a safe place to learn to ride competitively. A year later, my parents and I drove to Texas to compete in the 2003 U.S. Junior Women’s 10-12 Road National Championships and I won two gold medals in the criterium and time trial and a silver in the road race – I was hooked.

I continued to race both the road and track discipline for years. My success on the track has currently led to 18 U.S. National titles and 3 American National Records (records all with type 1 diabetes).

Photo credit: Team Novo Nordisk

At what point did you decide to do it professionally?

After I graduated from the Pennsylvania State University – Penn State Lehigh Valley commonwealth campus in the Spring of 2014, I was invited to a USA Cycling camp that fall.

Afterwards I was invited to go represent the United States at my first UCI Track World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico. I was so terrified to compete at that level, but now, six years later, I’m right up there with the world’s best, ranked 12th in UCI World Sprint ranking and one step closer to hopefully competing at my first Olympic Games. It’s been a slow and steady process, but if diabetes has taught me anything, it is consistency, patience and resilience.

In June of 2020, I was honored that USA Cycling named me as a member of the Long Team for Women’s Track Cycling. The final selection will be made next year, since the Tokyo Games have been rescheduled for July 23-August 8, 2021.

Did type 1 diabetes ever come in the way of your training or races?

Oh absolutely. It can be a challenge at times and the race doesn’t pause for me. Training and racing at this level, I’ve conditioned and adapted my body to handle the stress and workload, but occasionally the body will do what it wants. Of course, sometimes, it’s still frustrating when my blood sugars aren’t cooperating, like [when]  training and competing at altitude, going through different periods of my training cycle, juggling time zones and everything life throws at me.

I work closely with a sports psychologist and my team’s diabetes educator. Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve found what routine and nutritional habits work best for me and I’m still always learning and improving.

What do you use to help you manage your diabetes? Do you use a pump or do you prefer injections? Do you use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to help you monitor your blood sugar levels?

I use a continuous glucose monitor and take injections. It’s helpful to have real-time data around training, racing and traveling to better my diabetes management and performance – getting the most out of my training and recovery. Plus, I want to live a long healthy life, without complications!

Photo credit: Team Novo Nordisk

Photo credit: Team Novo Nordisk

What do you recommend to other athletes when it comes to managing your blood sugars during this type of activity?

Whether competing at a high level or just going out to exercise, always be prepared. I love my snacks! My favorites are the Honey Stinger waffles, performance chews, and protein snack bars! It’s important to be mindful about nutrition and fueling, and incorporating more protein, and eating consistently through the day. Most importantly, be patient and seek resources. My team, Team Novo Nordisk has many great resources and tips on their website too!

I know you are very active within the community, what are some of the things you’ve been up to lately?

I love my cycling career, but I think it’s important to have a balance between my personal and professional life. I recently partnered with Mammoth Creameries, a yummy keto-friendly ice cream founded by Tim Krauss, who is living with type 1 diabetes – it’s a pretty sweet partnership!

I also recently launched my logo and merchandise. The diabetes community has always been inspiring and supportive. I feel that my logo really puts my journey and the connection with the diabetes community in perspective. The blue circle is the global symbol for diabetes – that we are all connected in a special way and my initials subtly share a story that we are all greater than our highs and lows. For my merchandise highlighted with my logo, I wanted to create a wide range of awesome and high quality clothing and products that people can feel inspired and connected with.

Where do you see yourself both personally and professionally in 5-10 years?

Well, currently training hard in hopes of being selected for my first Olympic Team! I’d like to aim for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. So, in 5-10 years, I’d love to hopefully be a 2-time Olympian. Personally, I’d like to continue my education and earn my Masters Degree. I have an undergraduate degree in Business Management and Marketing from The Pennsylvania State University – Penn State Lehigh Valley (’14) commonwealth campus. I want to continue to prove to myself what I’m capable of as an athlete and what is possible with diabetes.

What would you say to the children out there, living with type 1 diabetes, who aspire to do great things when it comes to sports and fitness?

Go for it! Never limit yourself and your own capabilities. Use your platform to create awareness and inspire and connect with others affected by diabetes. The Founder and CEO of Team Novo Nordisk, who is also living and racing with diabetes says, “Diabetes only chooses the champions.”

Mandy, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! We will continue to follow your journey and can’t wait to see more great things from you! We wish you all the best!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Type 1 College Athlete Shares His Success Story

It is refreshing to see so many people living with type one diabetes in the sports world. Billy Fredrick is another great athlete out there representing us on the baseball field. Billy received a full scholarship to UCSB (University of California, Santa Barbara), who was ranked 6th in the nation in baseball, despite living with diabetes since he was a child. Billy’s story is one of perseverance, commitment and talent and I thought it would be great to share his journey in the hopes it would inspire children to never quit on their dreams. 

Hi Billy, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I think many kids who are diagnosed with type 1 think that this may stop them from living their dreams. I thought talking to you would be inspiring and show them that type 1 doesn’t have to stop them from anything they set out to do!

Allison, thank you for having me. I am very happy to talk about living and conquering diabetes. Life with diabetes is no easy task, but we can still accomplish great things.

I understand you were diagnosed at 11 years old with type 1 diabetes. How did you and your family handle the diagnosis?

It wasn’t easy at first. My life changed drastically. I had to begin checking my blood and taking shots of insulin. Moreover, I had to be aware of exercise intensity and carb amount in my diet. This sudden change took some time to get used to.

As the months passed, the new daily routine became habit and reflex. My family and I became more knowledgeable and confident in the process as time progressed.

Photo provided by Billy Fredrick

I have a 10-year-old myself, so I know at that age, some children do like their independence while others still enjoy their parent’s help. Were you hands-on with your diabetes management, or did your parents handle things until you were ready? 

I wasn’t super independent as a kid, so I was happy to hand over the responsibility to my parents. My mom did an incredible amount for me. She would come to school at lunch every day to check my blood and give me shots or work my pump. She would wake up around 2-3 am every morning to check my blood while I slept. She also had a big record book, where she documented all my glucose levels and food intake, in order to discover any important patterns that may help with my management. She was and still is a super mom!

At what age did you start managing your own diabetes and what was the driving factor behind when you decided to take control?

I started being fully dependent when in high school. My family and I felt that I would be able to handle it then. I was committed to it, so it went well. Commitment is an ongoing topic within the diabetes conversation; it is so necessary. I would also handle it at baseball practice as well. My daily schedule was consistent, so I was quickly able to find basal/bolus rates that worked well for me.

How were things socially for you growing up with type one diabetes? Were you vocal about it or did you not talk about it much?

At 11 years old, popularity or coolness is the most important factor at school. At first, I was worried that I might be looked down upon by my peers. However, I was very surprised at how accepted I was within my friend group, and elsewhere. They were kind and understanding towards it.

Here’s the bottom line: I was not a different person; I was still Billy, and my friends knew I was still Billy.

I tried to hide the fact in elementary school, but by the time I was in junior high, I was open to talking about it.

At what age did you start playing baseball? Were you nervous about managing your diabetes while playing? Were your coaches supportive?

I played baseball since I was five, and had developed a passion for it by the time I was diagnosed.

I was never nervous during games. I usually had plenty of time to check my blood in between innings. Baseball also doesn’t require a large amount of exercise, which allowed me to be so stable.

All my coaches were very supportive of me, and gave me the liberty to take breaks when I was low.

Photo provided by Billy Fredrick

Did you then, and do you now, wear a CGM or a pump? What do you find to be your most helpful tool in managing your diabetes during a baseball game?

I never played with a CGM. I didn’t want to wear another thing on my body during the games. I thought it may have been a hassle. Checking my blood a lot was the biggest tool in managing my level during the games. I brought some tablets to the field in my back pocket if I felt I was gonna go low in the outfield. I also brought a variety of food to the game (some high carb, some low carb), this allowed me to refine my blood sugar, and give me energy. Near the end of my college career, managing my diabetes was very easy because I was a seasoned veteran.

I use a Medtronic pump and CGM now. I like them. My control is getting better and better with it.

I understand you hit .333 during the College World Series, where you drove in a game-winning run with a bunt! You must have been stoked! How do the excitement and adrenaline affect your blood sugar during the game?

That is a great question. My blood sugar goes up pretty quickly when there’s a lot of excitement. There were many times during playoffs that year when adrenaline kicked in and spiked my blood sugar. Nervousness is another factor; it brings my blood sugar up also. A key is to remain attentive to your emotions during games.

Generally though, it tends to balance itself out with the exercise, so not much needs to be done on my part.

Did you ever experience burn out or have a difficult time managing your diabetes during baseball that made you want to stop playing? Can you tell us about that time?

I have never been burnt out during baseball. I was so committed to baseball and diabetes, that I was willing to push through any trial.

However, after I stopped playing, I did get burnt out a few times. I thought managing my levels would be easier when not an athlete, I was wrong. It was harder. My routine was less consistent (I only exercised a few times a week). This inconsistency caused my blood sugar to drop during times of exercise, and rise during times of rest. This made it difficult. As a solution, I am making exercise more commonplace. Exercise is incredibly important as a diabetic, and for normal people as well.

What are your favorite go-to snacks for lows?

Blue Gatorade or orange juice are my go-to beverages. Goldfish are also awesome!

Did you know any other people living with diabetes that inspired you to become a baseball player or in any other way?

I am sort of the black sheep of the family. I have no relatives who are diabetic.

It was fun to see baseball players like Jason Johnson and Sam Fuld play in the big leagues.

Your success story is amazing, what are your plans after college? Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years from now?

After getting my degree in Geography at UCSB, I decided to go to my community college to get another bachelor’s degree. (I didn’t really have many majors available to me because I was a busy student-athlete at UCSB.) I am currently working toward my bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering, and would enjoy designing anything from bridges to car parts for my career.

What advice would you tell a child living with type 1 diabetes who wants to play a sport but is reluctant to try due to their condition?

When your blood sugar is good, you are just like a completely normal person, capable of anything. My first recommendation is to work hard toward good blood sugar levels, because that opens the door to opportunity. Secondly, don’t be afraid to try new things.

Something that comes to mind is that no one on the other team knew I was diabetic. I seemed like a regular person to them. That is exactly how diabetics should think of ourselves. When we are committed to good blood sugar, nothing will hold us back.

Billy, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me today. I am a huge baseball fan (and a baseball mom) so I just love your success story and know it will inspire so many children out there!

Thank you, Allison! I am glad you are a big baseball fan as well, and wish the best of luck to your son in his future baseball career!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

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